Get a US Marriage Green Card: Step-by-Step Guide

Are you or your partner thinking about making the United States your permanent home after getting married? If you or your spouse are a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident with a green card, you may be able to apply for what’s known as a marriage green card.

This special type of visa lets you live and work in the U.S. permanently. Let’s dive into what a marriage green card is, how you can get one, and the essential steps you’ll need to take.

What is a Marriage Green Card?

Simply put, a marriage green card is a ticket to becoming a permanent resident in the United States based on your married relationship with a U.S. citizen or someone who already holds a green card. This not only allows you to settle down in the U.S. but also paves the way for citizenship eventually.

Eligibility Criteria for a Marriage Green Card

To be eligible for a marriage green card, here’s what you need to check off:

  • Your marriage must be legal: It should be recognized in the place where you were married.
  • Your spouse is a U.S. citizen or a green card holder: You’ll need to show proof, like a birth certificate or passport.
  • Your marriage is legitimate (bona fide): This means you need to prove your relationship is real and not just for the green card.
  • You and your spouse aren’t married to anyone else: Any previous marriages must be legally ended with documentation to show it.

How to Apply for a Marriage Green Card

The application process for a marriage green card includes several steps:

Step 1: Filing Form I-130

Begin by submitting Form I-130, a petition that proves you’re married to a U.S. citizen or green card holder. You need to include evidence like your marriage certificate and documents that show you have a genuine marriage.

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Step 2: Applying for Your Green Card

Depending on where you live (inside or outside the U.S.), your application process will vary. If you’re in the U.S., you’ll file Form I-485, known for “adjusting status.” If you’re abroad, you’ll go through “consular processing” and wait to be called for an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country.

Step 3: The Green Card Interview

Finally, you (and often your spouse) will attend an interview to review your application’s details. This is when an officer decides if you’ll get the green card.

How Long Does It Take?

The timeline varies based on your situation:

  • Living in the U.S. with a U.S. citizen spouse: It takes about 10-13 months to process your green card.
  • Living in the U.S. with a permanent resident spouse: Be prepared for a longer wait time of about 29-38 months.
  • Applying from abroad with a U.S. citizen spouse: The process should take around 11-17 months.
  • Applying from abroad with a permanent resident spouse: Your wait time might stretch to about 23-32 months.

Understanding the Costs

A marriage green card costs anywhere from $1,400 to $1,960, depending on where you apply from. This includes government filing fees and the cost of the required medical exam. Remember, you might also want to set aside some money if you decide to hire a lawyer to help you through the process.

When to Consider Getting a Lawyer

Most people navigate the green card application on their own, but there are times it’s wise to involve a professional. Consider hiring a lawyer if:

  • You are in deportation proceedings
  • You have entered the U.S. unlawfully
  • You’ve committed a crime
  • You’ve lied to the U.S. government for immigration benefits
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An experienced immigration lawyer will help make sure everything is in order and increase your chances of success.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can I work while waiting for my green card? Yes, if you apply from within the U.S., but you’ll need to get a work permit.
  • Can I leave the U.S. while my green card application is pending? Yes, but you’ll need something called Advance Parole.

Let’s say Linda, a Canadian citizen, marries John, a U.S. citizen living in Texas. Linda can start her marriage green card application by having John file Form I-130. Since Linda is in Canada, they’ll go through consular processing. After they file and wait for USCIS to approve their petition, Linda will be called for an interview at her local U.S. embassy. If all goes well, she could be living with John in Texas, with her own green card, within 17 months. If Linda had been living in Texas on a different type of visa when they married, she could change her status without leaving the U.S. and potentially get her green card even sooner.

Applying for a marriage green card is a lengthy process, but it’s a critical step for couples who envision a shared future in the United States. With careful planning, accurate documentation, and a bit of patience, this dream can become a reality.

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